The question turned out to be bogus, asked by a brand-new publisher trolling for potential authors. I didn’t realize it until I’d answered the question. When I thought back, I decided the answer I gave her shouldn’t be lost. I asked a version of that question when I first started to think I wanted to commit to writing more seriously. So, here is the answer I gave her:
Any writer, agent and publisher will tell you that the opinion of a family member is not a reliable gauge of one’s writing ability, even if they’re published writers themselves. Why? Because they love you. Because they don’t want to hurt you or your feelings. Because sometimes there’s a fine line between critique and criticism, and they’re afraid to cross it.
There are several thing you can do:
- Join a writing group. You can join a local writing group that writes in your genre. Your local library might be able to help you with that. You can join an online writing or critique group, although some of them are simply admiration societies and are pretty useless. Some of them, though, are quite good and can help you perfect your craft.
- Take a creative writing course. You can also take a creative writing course at your local college, or online. Some are quite good and don’t cost a lot of money.
- Read on writing techniques. There are tons of books on writing and self-editing that you can either buy or borrow from the library. One book that helped me tremendously is Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint.
- Ask for unbiased advice. If you’ve always lived in the same town, you can go visit one of your English teachers, be they from high school, college, or university, and ask them for advice. But don’t send your manuscript or story to your favourite published writer. It is unlikely he or she will respond, unless you know them personally.
- Don’t stop writing. Don’t stop at one book. Write continuously; it’s only in doing it that you get better.